DNA robot suffocates cancer
A new robot made of DNA strands can search for and kill cancer tumors by creating blood clots that cut off the tumor's supply lines.
DNA structure shaped like a tube
The enzyme thrombin that causes blood to clot
3D model of the Dna robot
Cancerous tumors depend on blood supply.
Without blood, they will wither and die. Therefore, researchers from Arizona State University, the United States, and the Chinese National Center for Nanoscience and Technology have developed a robot that will stifle tumors by stopping the blood supply.
The robot has been created with a special technology that shapes DNA strands to the structure chosen by the researchers.
In this case, the researchers have created a tubular structure containing a charge of the enzyme thrombin. The enzyme is naturally present in the body and allows the blood to coagulate in, for example, wound injuries.
Robots float in the bloodstream
The small DNA robots are injected into the bloodstream, followed by the blood around the body until they find the target they are designed to respond to.
Cancer cells release a particular protein that is not found in healthy cells – nucleolin.
The robots are equipped with DNA that binds to nucleolin, and only when the binding occurs does the robot release its load of thrombin. The enzyme activates the blood’s coagulants and forms a blood clot that blocks the blood supply to the cancerous tumor.
The first tests are promising
The researchers have successfully tested the robot on mice with cancerous tumors. After 24 hours, the robots had found the tumors and started forming blood clots. In three of eight mice, the cancer tumors disappeared completely.
The tests also showed that DNA robots work against breast cancer, lung cancer, malignant melanoma, and ovarian cancer.
Particularly enzyme causes the blood to clot
The robot senses as it approaches a tumor and releases its charge of the enzyme thrombin, which causes the blood to clot.
The DNA robot floats in a rolled form with the blood against the cancerous tumor. The robot’s load of enzymes has no contact with the blood at this time.
In the vicinity of the tumor, the robot encounters proteins unique to cancer cells. It causes the robot to roll out so that it can release its load of thrombin.
The thrombin now has free access to the blood, activating the body’s natural coagulants and forming chains of fibrin that are usually included in the wound healing.
The clot builds up from the coagulated blood and blocks the blood vessel so that the tumor’s supply of oxygen and nutrients is stopped. This isolation suffocates the cancerous tumor.